This morning's NYT covered yesterday's "press conference" by Chinese President Hu Jintao. The Chinese leadership, despite their evident lack of experience and enthusiasm in this area, are trying their hardest to prove that they really are running an open, transparent political culture. Can't blame them for sucking at it. There haven't been any good examples in the world lately.
Anyway, according to the Times the event was a dismal failure. I think this is mostly because there were only a select few from the foreign press corps that were invited, and the Times was not among them. They didn't miss much - here's what the Times reporter had to say about the President's performance:
"Mr. Hu did not commit any news."
Bullseye. Deadpan precision. Bravo.
Mississippi River Update
Last week I brought you up to speed on the obstinate Mississippi River's refusal to heed the Coast Guard's official order to halt. The river is still flowing and this week word came out that the petroleum companies, who started this mess, are making the most of it. According to Reuters Louisiana refineries are operating normally despite the spill, which has pretty much clogged up the otherwise commerce-laden thoroughfare. At last count (as of July 28) 180 ships are backed up north of the spill.
What could explain the refineries devil may care attitude? Could it be that they've found another source of petroleum for their operations? Would it be too cynical of me to suggest that the petroleum companies are out there fishin from the bank for crude, piping it into their plants before the river can cleanse itself of the contaminant? This is far cheaper than paying somebody else to pump the oil out of the ground - you just have to take the large pipes that are typically used to dump industrial solvents and byproducts of the refining process into the river and turn the pumps around! Start pumping IN instead of OUT!!! Brilliant. What financial wizardry!
I predict profits at refineres will skyrocket in the months ahead. Actually, they're already skyrocketing. This will give them escape velocity and have them orbiting the planet for years to come.
Turn That Pump Upsidedown
Glowing In Red America
Several communities in rural America are considering the possibility of serving as "interim" nuclear waste storage sites. They would do that until the national nuclear waste repository at Yucca mountain goes into business. This means that they will do it forever.
The fact that the government folks who come around with the happy talk and contracts to get locals to sign up for nuclear waste facilities usually get hog-tied and dragged out of town on the back of a rusty, beat-up pickup causes this case to be worth some attention. Why would these particular locals take such a liking to the Feds? What draws them to the notion of harboring industrial waste that will be radiating long after their great-great-great-great-great grandchildren are born? Are they just good citizens? Are they crazy? Or are they just desperate. Methinks it's the latter.
Allow me to generalize, but I'm gonna do it whether you let me or not. I envision these folks as hailing from a region that has suffered from a stomach-churning seepage of jobs and tax base over the past twenty years or so. Naturally I'm assuming that every rural community suffers from this ailment, which is further evidence of my ignorance and lack of imagination, but surely some do. I'm not that stupid. Take Detroit. That place isn't even rural, but it's gonna be after another year of the brutal beating it's been taking. Flint is closer, but I'm only picking it because I remember it from Michael Moore, and he's been getting on my nerves ever since "Roger and Me". So go about 20 or 30 miles further out and you're getting into the kind of rural area that the Feds assume will be receptive to their pitch. Actually, go another 500 miles west and you're right in the heart of it.
The communities that are conducting the negotiations remain anonymous, no doubt to avoid a further flight of neighbors and visitors. But have no fear. The fog of doubt will soon be lifted. The satellite image below shows the continental United States at night. See all that dark space west of the Mississippi? There's a couple of bright spots in there - Denver, St. Louis, Kansas City. I predict a couple of more bright spots in the next few years. Perhaps this is all just a Federal program to make the whole nation shine equally from space - sort of an equal opportunity program that substitutes nuclear radiation for incandescent radiation..